Reprinted with the permission of Selangor Times editor KL Chan. A JPEG version displaying the original layout is available at Amir Muhammad’s blog: Short story by Zen Cho in the 14th issue of Selangor Times.
Chicken Chicken Bang Bang
by Zen Cho
Eileen knew she shouldn’t have listened to her brother.
Confucius should have included a get-out clause in the Analects, she thought. Respect your elders–except when they are idiots.
“Come, I drive you to work,” Ko had said in the morning. “I fixed the Proton last weekend. Want to see whether it works or not.”
Eileen had demurred: “No, it’s OK. I’ll take the LRT.”
“Come lah,” said Ko. “No point you drive to the LRT station and then have to wait for the train. Might as well I drive you all the way.”
“But you know I hate the jam,” said Eileen.
“Don’t worry. We’ll go by highway,” said Ko. “I know a special way to get there. Very fast one! I tell you, you won’t even notice the jam.”
Now here they were, stuck in an unmoving car, in a sea of unmoving cars. They hadn’t even got to the toll. The toll booths wavered in the distance like a mirage.
Eileen pressed her face against the window and stared out at the world.
The cars rumbled unpeaceably. Exhaust clouded over the fragile sweetness of the morning air. In each car each driver sat in impressive solitude, like a man keeping watch in a lighthouse, or a regicide on a stolen throne.
“Do you realise,” Eileen said to her brother, “I know the streets of London so much better than the streets of PJ? Even though I was born here, and I study in UK three years only. But all I see of this city is through this pane of glass. Not like the glass is very clean also.”
Her brother was not much of a philosopher. He said,
“You remember that show we used to watch when we were small? British movie. There was a car that can fly, you remember? When you pressed the button, suddenly got wing and propellor come out.”
“Hah! Yes,” said Eileen. “‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, right?”
“Whenever I’m stuck in a jam, I always think, wah, nice if our car can do that hor,” said Ko. He lifted a flap next to the radio, revealing a large red button. Eileen had never seen it before.
Ko slammed the button with the butt of his palm.
“That’s why I did this!”
He had to yell to be heard over the huge tearing noise that shook the car.
The Proton juddered and rose into the air. The heads in all the other cars turned to look at them. Eyes went round. Jaws dropped.
“What did you do?” screamed Eileen. She looked out of the window, and regretted it. Their distance from the ground was dizzying.
Legs extended from the bottom of their car: yellow, scaly legs, with sharp witch’s talons on the ends of their thin curving toes.
“I pimped my ride,” said Ko exultantly. “I call it Chicken Chicken Bang Bang!”
The car crushed a Mercedes under its foot.
“Take that, you rich bastard!” said Ko.
The car rose and dropped like a ship riding the waves. Far below them horns blared; people were screaming. The Proton smashed another car underfoot.
“That was just a Kancil!” Eileen protested.
“The driver was probably an asshole anyway,” said Ko.
“What the hell did you do to our car?” said Eileen.
“You know how Ma ordered chicken feet when we went for dim sum last week?” said Ko. “She didn’t finish because she’s dieting. Nobody else wanted them. I thought, so wasted to throw away. Why not use them?”
“Jampi lah then,” said Ko. “You think this is science meh?
“It’s very green, though,” he added. “Those legs don’t run on petrol, know! They’re powered by pure frustration. You know or not how much of the atmosphere is made up of frustration?”
“On a Monday morning on the way to KL?” said Eileen.
“You guessed correct,” said Ko. “100%!”
The car squashed a man on a motorcycle. Eileen closed her eyes, nausea rising up her throat.
She had always known there was something crazy living inside her brother. This something was his brain.
“Is it slowing down?” she said, swallowing.
Ko looked annoyed.
“We’re running out of frustration,” he said. He frowned down at the crowded road. “Only one person per car, means there’s not enough feelings in the air. People should carpool.”
“But look, we’re there already!”
They had reached the toll booths. Chicken Chicken chose a lane and settled down with a happy cluck.
“One more step, and we’re on the highway,” said Ko. “Good old ayam.–Wait! Basket!”
Eileen somehow knew what was coming. Any girl with a brother knows what stupid looks like.
“I forgot the Touch ‘n’ Go card,” said Ko.